Chrístõ had planned nothing more than a quiet evening with some music and a stack of essays distressing Shakespeare in the way only fourteen year old Human literature students could.

He should have known better. He had just finished his supper of a cheese salad sandwich and detoxifying green tea and was settling down with the first teenage interpretation of Hamlet and his best red pen when he heard the distinct sound of a TARDIS materialising in the hallway.

It was a type fifty, the sort Paracell Hext used for Celestial Intervention Agency travel. He could tell by the shrill note as the materialisation completed. A moment later Hext walked into the drawing room looking decidedly smug.

“I’m busy,” Chrístõ informed him before he had even explained his visit.

“Doing WHAT?” Hext queried.

“Marking,” he answered waving the red pen meaningfully.

“What kind of work is THAT for a bright, smart thinking Time Lord?” Hext demanded. “Come on. Bring that boring stuff if you like, but I need your expertise. I’ve got a missing man on your favourite planet.”

“Earth?” Chrístõ put down the pen and made sure his sonic screwdriver was in his trouser pocket before grabbing his jacket and following Hext into his clinically white TARDIS console room.

“That’s the one.” Hext closed the door and flicked the dematerialisation switch nonchalantly.

“Who’ve you lost? I hope it isn’t my cousin, Remy, again.”

“Remy is safe and well and enjoying pushing papers at the Tower. Actually, technically it isn’t one of MY men. Joachim Charr went missing nearly fifty years ago, before my time at the Agency.”

“Joachim Charr? I think I know his name, but I’ve no idea what happened to him.”

“Nobody does. He was presumed dead long ago, but a long range sensor picked up a transponder signal from his TARDIS twenty-two hours ago. It took that long to confirm it was the right signal and where it originated – then I came to straight here to get you.”

“From his TARDIS – not from the man himself?” Chrístõ queried. “So he could actually be dead. It might be an automatic signal.”

“Either way, we have to find him. Even more so if he’s dead. His body can’t fall into the wrong hands. Nor can his TARDIS. We have to do what’s necessary in that case.”

Chrístõ understood that, of course. He had been present when his friend, Mai Li Tuo died, and had made sure his body and his TARDIS were put out of reach of anyone who could misuse them.

“All right, I’m with you on this one. But you have to stop assuming I’m available any time you choose.”

Hext said nothing. Chrístõ knew it would be the same the next time the director of the Celestial Intervention Agency felt he needed his ‘expertise’ – or just his company on the journey.

And the next time… and the next.

The real question was whether he really minded it as much as he protested that he did. Wasn’t this a more interesting way to spend an evening than marking execrable essays? Wasn’t this exactly why he lived so far beyond the Transduction Barrier - so that adventure was only a heartsbeat away at any moment and nobody could say or do anything to stop him.

Of course he was ready for whatever lay ahead.

The TARDIS materialised in a jungle. The environmental console registered high temperatures and even higher humidity. Neither young Time Lord was especially experienced with such an environment. There was no jungle on Gallifrey, a planet of burning dry deserts, ice capped mountains and temperate plains. Paracell Hext looked doubtfully at the scene on the viewscreen.

Chrístõ looked and then checked their exact location on planet Earth.

“You really should know that my previous ‘experience’ of Earth will be of no use at all. I’ve never been to this part of Earth before.”

“Does it really matter that much?” Hext asked. “Surely one part of the planet is the same as any other.”

“Not this planet. It has the greatest biodiversity in the known galaxies. For the record, we’re in Cambodia. The closest I’ve been to it geographically or politically is Song Shan in China, which is approximately two thousand, five hundred and twelve kilometres away from here.”

“That’s not so far,” Hext observed. “On a galactic scale.”

“On a Human scale it’s a million light years,” Chrístõ responded. “Anyway, pack food, mosquito cream and plenty of water and let’s see if we can find your man QUICKLY. I’m going to change. I can’t wear a leather jacket out there. I’ll be soaked in sweat before we’ve gone ten yards.”

“See, you’re useful, after all,” Hext replied. “I wouldn’t have thought of that. We’d better both change.”

Dressed in lightweight jungle camouflage fatigues the two Time Lords could have been mistaken for soldiers. Chrístõ felt as if he was being forced to be one as he reluctantly took a Celestial Intervention Agency gun from Hext and concealed it inside his jacket.

“It can be set to kill, two levels of stun or to erase a subject’s short term memory,” Hext told him. “If you feel you can’t use it in lethal mode, then choose either of the other three settings.”

“Only in an extreme emergency,” Chrístõ insisted. “What is YOURS set to?”

“The higher level of stun,” Hext conceded. “We shouldn’t risk affecting causality by permanently removing any native of this planet from it.”

“That’s an interesting euphemism for ‘kill’,” Chrístõ noted. “Come on. Let’s get on.”

The TARDIS had disguised itself as a moss and vine covered rock outcrop that they lost sight of within a few feet of the dense jungle. The humidity as well as the vegetation had already closed around them by then. Hext used his sonic screwdriver in laser mode to cut a path through the toughest of the greenery. Chrístõ used his to create a low level vibration that kept the larger insects and the smaller reptile life away from them. Nothing held back the very tiniest mosquitoes and they just had to keep their eyes open for snakes and other dangerous fauna.

“This jungle has seen Human endeavour,” Chrístõ noted as they worked their way around what they thought was an outcrop of rock covered in vines. “This is some kind of ancient shrine. Look at the fantastic carvings. Late Dravidian….”

“A shrine?” Hext traced the intricate relief depicting Shiva and a host of Hindu gods and goddesses appreciatively. He knew nothing about the religion that inspired such work, but he understood that dedication and faith had gone into it. “This hasn’t been worshipped at for a long time.”

“The jungle has reclaimed it for several centuries,” Chrístõ agreed. “Look at the way those vines are growing out of the cracks in the stone. The civilisation that built this moved on for some reason – perhaps war or famine, maybe even drought - or perhaps just a shift in the political structure that caused them to leave the area.”

“Fascinating,” Hext remarked with a slight hint in his tone that he found such things anything but fascinating. Chrístõ laughed at his attitude, but conceded that they were not there to study archaeology or anthropology, but to find a missing Time Lord.

“Do we have any kind of lock on the transponder signal with that gismo of yours?” he asked. Hext pulled up his sleeve and adjusted the chunky black wristlet beneath.

“North-north-west, about four kilometres,” he replied. “But pushing through territory like this it could take us a long time. We can’t just go in a straight line. Trees, rocks, ancient vine-covered shrines will take us off course as it is. We really can’t hang about studying them.”

“Getting pulled off course by the topography is the whole fun of orienteering,” Chrístõ told him. “Didn’t you ever join the Prydonian Scouts?”

“No. The uniform was so unstylish. I wouldn’t have been seen dead in it. Nor would any of my friends. We had sartorial standards!”

“I wouldn’t have used the word ‘sartorial’ to describe any part of the required uniform at the Academy,” Chrístõ conceded. “Even the senior gowns were rather naff.”

Naff was not a word that translated into Gallifreyan, but Hext thought it sounded onomatopoeically appropriate for the clothes in question.

“Anyway, we have a digital bearing to the missing TARDIS. It’s far easier than using a paper map and a manual compass in the Red Desert,” Chrístõ pointed out, getting back to the point of their mission. “Best foot forward, Paracell.”

He was enjoying himself. Trekking through the jungle with nothing more than the vegetation and some insect life to worry about was the sort of adventure he liked. Hext was game for it, too, though he had not been a scout and had never practised any kind of orienteering before joining the Agency. They moved through the jungle with only the usual sort of difficulties involved in cutting through vines and making a path where there wasn’t one for hundreds of years. They were cheerful enough about it to manage several of the bawdier verses of the Prydonian Fighting Song along the way.

They were in the middle of one of those verses when they suddenly emerged from the green-grey gloom of the jungle into a wide area that was bathed in late evening sunlight. An artificial waterway lay before them, reflecting the warm light, and beyond it rose a temple complex of exotic spires and arched portals into high walls. The same red-orange sunlight warmed the stone walls. Later the sun would drop behind it casting the stepped spires into dark silhouettes against the last light of the day, but for now it was starkly detailed.

“Impressive,” Hext admitted.

“Extremely impressive,” Chrístõ answered. “I’ve never been here, but I know it from studying Earth culture. This is Angkor Wat, one of the oldest and most complete temples in south-east Asia. All those shrines buried in the jungle were just way stations. This is the destination.”

“In more ways than one,” Hext told him. “The transponder signal is coming from within that structure.”

“That makes sense. It’s the only remotely habitable structure for miles around. Charr must have taken refuge there.”

There was a bridge across the wide, deep moat that prevented the jungle from swallowing the Temple. It was built centuries ago to take heavy cart traffic but it had been neglected for at least two or three of those centuries. There were large chunks of masonry missing and those still in place looked as if they wouldn’t remain there for long.

The moat was four sided, all around the temple complex. It was possible that they might find a better bridge if they skirted around to another side, but then again, for all they knew, this might be the best of them. By silent consensus they stepped together onto the crumbling stones.

They were near the far end of the bridge and it and they were still intact when the sound of machine guns sent a flock of birds flying up out of the trees behind them. They looked around in astonishment but they couldn’t see where the shots were coming from.

“Hext… what YEAR is this?” Chrístõ asked. “The local year, not galactic time or Rassilonian era.”

“Nineteen seventy-four,” Hext answered. “Is that a problem?”

“It’s a major problem. We’re in the middle of one of the nastiest revolutions, civil wars, military coup, whatever you want to call it – certainly the nastiest attempted genocide - in the history of this planet, if not the galaxy. We have to get out of here.”

The gunfire rang out again, closer, and now they could hear angry shouts in the local language.

“We can’t go back. That part of the jungle must be full of soldiers.”

“The temple… it’s our only chance.”

They ran side by side across the wide expanse of open ground between the moat and the strong, high walls of the temple. They didn’t run in a straight line, but wove back and forward across the more direct path. The tactic almost certainly saved their lives as dozens of soldiers burst out of the jungle, strafing the ground all around them with bullets.

“Why do they think we’re the enemy?” Hext asked telepathically as hot shrapnel bounced around his feet.

“Everyone is their enemy,” Chrístõ answered. “They really don’t care who we are, only that we’re here where we aren’t meant to be. Keep moving.”

As they neared the wide portal into the west gallery the soldiers poured across the bridge and fanned out around the courtyard. Bullets ploughed into the ancient walls, chipping at the fine relief depictions of the achievements of King Suryavarman II.

“They’re going to follow us inside,” Hext pointed out.

“I know,” Chrístõ replied breathlessly. “We can lose them in these cloisters and corridors for a while, but they’re going to overwhelm the place sooner or later.”

“I think we need to turn our weapons to kill and be prepared to drop any qualms about it,” Hext added.

Chrístõ didn’t say anything. It was the last thing he wanted to do. Besides, when he glanced back from the entrance he counted at least a hundred soldiers heading their way. Whether he chose to stun, kill or erase memories, he didn’t fancy his chances.

“Who’s that?” Hext asked. Chrístõ turned to see a saffron-robed Buddhist monk at the far end of the gallery they had turned into. He waved a hand towards them.

“He wants us to follow him.”

“Could be a trap.”

“I doubt it,” Chrístõ responded. “And even if it is – I’ll take my chances with him rather than running back towards a Khmer Rouge army.”

They followed the monk as he led them towards a flight of steep steps going down towards a dark, shadowy corridor. The monk walked slowly and calmly, as if untroubled by the imminent danger.

“Sir….” Paracell Hext said to him. “Those men behind us mean business. I really think we should hurry.”

“There is no need for haste,” the monk answered in a serene tone. “We will not be troubled within the Sanctuary.”

“I am sorry to say, that is not likely to be true,” Chrístõ urged him. “For any of us. Those soldiers have orders to kill religious men like you. You are in terrible danger.”

“The Sanctuary is quite safe,” the monk assured them again. “Come, be at peace, friends.”

The dark corridor led into a substantial underground room lit by rushlights around the intricately carved walls. They passed across that room and into another one. As they crossed the threshold Chrístõ and Hext were both aware of a curious change in atmosphere.

“We passed through a dimensional portal!” Hext exclaimed. He turned and noticed that there was no longer a doorway behind him.

“A dimensional portal with a fully functioning chameleon gate,” Chrístõ confirmed. “The soldiers will never find the way in.”

“Well… that’s a relief,” Hext acknowledged. “And I suppose it proves that we’re in the right place. Only a Time Lord could put up a dimensional portal.”

“Time Lord!” The monk who had led them to this place of safety was surprised but clearly familiar with the term. “You seek the old one?”

“Yes…. I think we do,” Chrístõ answered. “Is he here?”

“Come with me,” the monk told them. He led them again through another series of passages, all of them with walls and ceiling covered in relief carvings depicting, if they had time to stop and look carefully, the history of the first religion to be celebrated within Angkor Wat – Hinduism. The deeds of the many gods of that faith were glorified, heroes uplifted to sit beside those gods.

But even if they weren’t walking too quickly to look carefully their minds were not on archaeology or theology. Above their heads, soldiers of the Khmer Rouge were pouring into the ancient temple complex, searching for the two men they had seen and anyone else they might find hiding in the holy place. If the whole of the undercroft was protected by chameleon gates they would be safe enough, but how long could they stay in such a hiding place? Sooner or later they had to get back to the TARDIS, with or without Joachim Charr.

“We must be under the central shrine by now,” Chrístõ noted. “The actual mausoleum of Suryavarman II. If you look carefully you can see these are much older carvings than the outer ones. This part was built first.”

“You are correct, friend,” the monk told him. “Above us is the central sanctuary, built by the Lord Suryavarman as his own tomb and in honour of Vishnu.”

“The holiest part of the Temple,” Chrístõ acknowledged. “I am sorry for what is happening to it now.”

He and Hext could both feel in their telepathic minds what was happening above. The soldiers were rampaging through the temple, searching for the monks who still worshipped within its exquisitely decorated walls. If they found anyone, they would be killed at once. The leader of the revolution, the man who called himself Pol Pot, had declared that all the people should be equal. Therefore religion was to be suppressed. Religious leaders and practitioners must be killed so that the people knew that there was nothing and nobody they could look to for comfort or inspiration.

Hext was shocked to see Chrístõ’s thoughts on that subject.

“Seriously? That’s what they have planned for this old man and any of his brothers in this place?”


Hext shook his head in bewilderment. He didn’t understand why humans should do things like that to other humans. In his experience deeds of that kind were committed by one species against another.

“We’ve never come close to a civil war on Gallifrey. We have no real idea what it is like to be torn apart in that way.”

“Thanks be to our Lord Rassilon for that,” Hext remarked before falling quiet again even within his own head.

The old monk led them through a portal protected by an ordinary wooden door with no kind of Time Lord trickery involved. They stepped into a room that had to be as wide as the first level of the temple above. Within it two dozen or more men were gathered. Most of them were monks in the saffron, but there were also a group of white men dressed in the sort of clothing that marked them out as ‘archaeologists’. There were food stores and casks of water against one wall and sleeping mats rolled out on the floor. Clearly everyone had been down here for at least a couple of days. The beginnings of beards and slept in clothes were a big clue.

Everyone looked at the two newcomers and drew back at first, mistaking their jungle fatigues for army uniforms – the sort nobody wanted to see right now.

“Hello,” Chrístõ said, feeling that it was an utterly inadequate thing to say.

“Come close,” said a weak voice from within what the two Time Lords had taken to be an unmade bed. They stepped nearer and saw a very old man wearing the saffron robes of the monks but with Caucasian features.

“Joachim Charr?” Hext asked as he knelt beside the man.

“I have not been known by that name for a long time,” he answered. “A VERY long time.”

“How long?” Chrístõ asked. He, too, knelt and made a swift medical examination of the elderly Time Lord. His two hearts were weak, the linings thin with the passage of time. His lungs were fragile, too. His other organs were failing gradually.

He was dying.

“Yes,” Joachim Charr said. “Yes, I am near the end of my last life. I had almost given up hope. Then just a few hours ago I felt your presence in the jungle, coming closer. I sent the old man to watch for you, to bring you into this safe place.”

“You know what is happening outside? You know what it means?”

“I was brought into the Agency because of my prodigious foresight. It was my ‘special’ talent. I know exactly what is happening to this magnificent country, to its people. That is why I did what I could to save a few of them… these monks who I have called my family, and these few men who were here learning about the history of this beautiful place.”

“Yes, I see that. The chameleon gate – it is partly created by your TARDIS. But I think you are maintaining it with your mind. The strain on your body….”

“I have lived a long time. These humans have such fleeting lives, but I strive to protect them.”

“At risk of shortening the time you have left.”

“What better use of that time?”

Chrístõ had no answer to that. He touched the old man on the forehead and willed him some of his own strength before turning to Hext.

“They found somebody,” the Celestial Intervention Agency director said in a curiously broken voice. “I felt it. The soldiers closed in on one poor soul up there… I think it was just a peasant who hid in the temple. They found him and… they killed him right there. His life meant nothing to them.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ answered. “That is what they do. The leader of the revolution believed that people had been corrupted by modern living. He emptied the cities, closed schools, universities, hospitals, made the people work in collective farms, growing rice. Intellectuals were slaughtered.”

“What?” Hext was startled by the notion. “But….”

“By intellectual, they meant anyone who read books about anything other than rice growing. Anyone wearing glasses was considered an intellectual. Weak eyes were a sign of reading too much.”

“They shoot people for wearing glasses. Chrístõ… you’re making that up, surely?”

“I’m not. Notice, by the way, that two of the archaeologists are wearing spectacles. As if being an archaeologist wasn’t enough to earn them a bullet. And that’s only because they have bullets to spare at this early stage of things. Later in the regime it was not unusual to force groups of people to dig their own mass grave and then bury them alive in it.”

“And you still love this planet, knowing that terrible things like that happen here?”

“Yes, I do. I love the Human capacity to do wonderfully good things despite all the dark and foul things. But that isn’t our main concern right now. Hext, I have never been to this country before because it is just such a big world I have never got around to it. But if I had chosen to visit here, to see the Angkor Wat or so many other beautiful sites, I would not have chosen to come at this time. Cambodia in this time is exactly the sort of situation we are expressly forbidden to interfere with. There is nothing we can do for the millions who are suffering now and are yet to suffer even more terrible cruelties.”

“You’re lecturing me about interfering in the destinies of others?” Hext smiled ironically.

“Yes, because I can feel the way your mind is working. You are appalled by such tyranny. You can’t bear the idea of doing nothing.”

“I don’t know why I’m thinking that way. I’ve never felt that way before. I’ve always steeled myself to remain detached, dispassionate, even in the face of terrible atrocity.”

“I think I know why,” Chrístõ told him. “It’s Joachim Charr. He gave up being detached centuries ago. He has been living here since the temple was newly built. He’s the ‘old man’ of their holy community, every generation forgetting just how long the ‘old man’ has been with them. You’re picking up a powerful level of empathy from him.”

“You mean he’s controlling my mind?”

“Hardly. He’s a dying man, weakening by the minute. He’s using his own mental power to maintain the chameleon gates that are protecting all of us from certain death. He doesn’t have the strength to deliberately play with your emotions. It’s just a side effect of his feelings about these people.”

“Even so….” Hext paused. His hand was in his pocket where his futuristic weapon was concealed. He wondered if he could take out a few of those soldiers who were intent on the sort of wilful murder of unarmed civilians that planets throughout the Galaxy, including his own, deplored.

Then he felt a deliberate brake upon those thoughts. He looked at the old Time Lord lying so still and quiet on his death bed. He had used some of the little strength he had to send him a rebuke.

“We are Time Lords. We find other ways.”

“We may not have another way,” Hext answered. “Sir, you know what will happen when your strength fails….”

“That is why I hoped you would come - to lend your strength to the effort.”

“We can do that. But not indefinitely. Sooner or later we all have to leave this hiding place.”

He looked around at the humans keeping their quiet vigil in this subterranean place of safety. Most of the monks were performing some kind of meditation. One of them was putting spices into a rice soup that was cooking over a portable stove.

The archaeologists were sitting on their bedrolls looking worried. Hext noticed that they were all still wearing badges identifying them as members of the exploratory team. The man in charge was a professor Brent Hardinge, head of South-East Asian Studies at the University of Illinois. His colleagues were Martin Hagen, Charles Dillon and Brian Sturridge from the same university. Hext was only vaguely aware that Illinois was a part of the sector of Earth called the USA. He noted that their accents when speaking the language known as English was very different from when Chrístõ spoke the same language. The monks had a different language altogether.

Earth was a complicated place.

“How did you all get trapped here?” he asked them.

“We left it too late to get out,” answered Hardinge. “We’d been listening to the radio every day. We knew that the situation was getting worse. We were supposed to make for the airport when we got a signal – a coded message on one of the regular English language broadcasts. But we were in the middle of a really important bit of research, and we stayed behind when the others packed up. We had a jeep and we thought we could make it out in time, but the Khmer Rouge outflanked us. There are thousands of troops in the jungle between here and the airport. The monks hid us down here. The old man… he said we’d be safe. But it can only be a matter of time before they find the undercroft and come after us. And then… we’re dead. They don’t like Americans. We represent everything they hate. They’ll shoot us where we stand. The monks, too. and if you and your friend are still here – the British Embassy in Phnom Penh closed down the same time ours did. Everyone’s gone who could help us.”

“We’re not British,” Hext said. “And we’re not helpless. We don’t have a plan, yet, but sitting here and waiting to be shot isn’t going to be a part of it when we do.”

“Hext, come and check this out,” Chrístõ called to him. He left the archaeologists and went to the side of the dying Time Lord again. He stared in surprise at the object Chrístõ was slowly opening. It was a varnished wooden box carved with the same kind of figures they had seen on the temple walls. Inside was a ball of light that dazzled his eyes and cast an eerie brightness around the underground room.

“It’s a fraction of the Eye of Harmony,” Chrístõ explained as he closed the box again. “It’s all that remains of his TARDIS. It crashed here over eight hundred years ago, when Angkor Wat was being constructed. Not just this temple, but a huge city that was long since swallowed by the jungle.”

“It was beautiful,” Joachim said in a quiet voice. “From the top of the temple walls you could see the city spread out below, three huge reservoirs glittering in the sunlight – clean water for drinking and cooking, for washing, for irrigating the fields and growing crops. It was a magnificent place. The temple… When it was new, the walls were covered in gold. It was a jewel at the heart of the kingdom of the Khmer people.”

The effort to remember so far back, and to convey to his fellow Time Lords how magnificent the ruins they had seen had once been was too much. Joachim slipped into unconsciousness. Chrístõ confirmed that he was just exhausted. It wasn’t the end, yet.

“Khmer?” Hext queried. “Isn’t that what those soldiers call themselves?”

“The name is taken from the ancient people of Cambodia,” Chrístõ answered. “But that’s the only thing they have in common. Joachim was stranded here, his TARDIS damaged beyond repair. He made himself a home among the Khmer people. He was able to transmit a weak transponder signal – one that would take centuries to reach our most distant listening satellite on the edge of the Kasterborus system. He waited for a response, living through all his regenerations, knowing that his wait would be rewarded one day.”

“That’s patience,” Hext agreed. “He knew we would be here now… this year… this time… with the civil war closing in and his strength failing?”

“He knew. He brought these few people into his place of safety with him and waited the last few days… the last hours… until we came.”

“We… must be a bit of a disappointment.”

“He doesn’t think so.”

“He knows we’re here to witness his death, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he does. And he knows it is going to be some time in the next few hours. But he also expects us to rescue his friends.”

“We can’t do that.”

“I think we can,” Chrístõ said. “But it won’t be easy. I might have to swallow my principles and commit some acts of violence.”

“You? I thought I’d be the one to do that. I’ve got the gun.”

“The rice soup is ready. Let’s eat and give thanks for the company of friends and the safety of these walls, and I will explain what I have in mind.”

Chrístõ and Hext both found the rice soup tasty and nourishing. The monks, too, appreciated it. The archaeologists, who had eaten it for every meal since they took refuge, mourned the lack of meat in their rations, but not within hearing of the cook.

Joachim Charr ate only a little of the broth from the soup. Chrístõ tried to coax him to take more nourishment, but he insisted that his appetite was poor.

“I have no need for food,” he added. “You know it is only a matter of time, now.”

“Yes, I know,” Chrístõ admitted. He had examined the old man again. One heart was failing. His kidneys were in a bad state. His breathing was getting more and more ragged.

“When I die, the fragment of the Eye of Harmony will be released. It and I have existed in symbiosis ever since I came here. When we are both gone, the power that has protected all of us will be gone.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ nodded. He had already worked that out. “Until this unprotected fragment is gone, though, Paracell can’t bring his TARDIS here to evacuate your friends. We will all be vulnerable until he does.”

“We?” Joachim Charr smiled weakly. “You and your friend do not have to risk your lives. You could leave any time you choose. You are quite capable of maintaining personal perception filters long enough to get back to your TARDIS.”

“We’re not going to do that. We are Time Lords. We would not besmirch the honour of that title by such a cowardly action.”

“I never thought to hear any man talk of Time Lord honour again,” Charr said. “Thank you for that. I have been happy among these good, honourable men who devote their lives to an honourable religion. But I am glad to be in the presence of my own kind in my last hours.”

“I am glad to be here, sir,” Chrístõ assured him. “We both are. We will be with you until the last.”

The last came just after the third hour past midnight, local time. Joachim Charr passed quietly into immortality in the presence of two of his own race and with the Buddhist prayers of the brethren he had lived among and the Christian prayers of the American archaeologists who had sought safety with them.

What happened a moment later was not quiet. The sound of the old wooden box splintering apart shook even the devout monks from their prayers. The high-pitched scream as the fragment of a neutron star escaped from the mental restraints that had bound it to the old Time Lord for centuries had them all clapping their hands to their ears. Chrístõ and Hext were the only two witnesses to see the fragment shoot towards the ceiling and melt straight through it. All of the humans had turned their faces away to protect their eyes.

When the noise and the unbearable brightness had died away they were left in total darkness and utter silence until Paracell Hext moved towards one of the paraffin lamps that had lit the chamber and relit it.

“If we’re lucky it’ll be a few minutes before the soldiers realise they can get down here, now,” he said. “I’ll have made it across the bridge by then. I can get through the jungle by cover of darkness even if they have patrols. It should take me about three hours to reach the TARDIS.”

“Meanwhile I hold the fort here,” Chrístõ assured him. “You realise I am going to keep my gun on stun. These are brutal killers, following the orders of a lunatic. But one day the regime will fall and some of them, at least, may regret what they have done – but only if they live to do so.”

“I know,” Hext answered. “Just so long as you stop them getting into this chamber, it doesn’t matter how you do it.”

“Good luck, Hext,” Chrístõ told him.

“You, too, Thete,” he replied, then he turned and headed to the door. Chrístõ listened to the sound of his footsteps getting further away before turning back to the body of Joachim Charr. He closed his eyes and placed his hands over both hearts before covering him with a white linen cloth.

“Let us keep vigil,” said the monks. “You have other work to do.”

They were peaceful men, but they understood that peace would not be given to any of them without a fight. Chrístõ stood and went to the same door Hext had left by. He walked across the chamber with the finely carved figures on every inch of the walls and ceiling and across the threshold of the now open portal where the Chameleon Gate had protected them all until now.

He found three stunned Khmer Rouge soldiers in the corridor beyond. He examined them and noted that they had been subjected to the highest level of stun, knocking them unconscious for several hours. He pulled their bodies into the chamber where they could not be seen and put their guns into a small pile. He turned his pistol to full kill mode and used it to destroy the Russian made semi-automatics. That was three less guns, a very tiny drop in the ocean of armaments that were in the sorry country, but a statistic that satisfied him.

As the first hour of his vigil passed he brought six more unconscious men into the chamber and again destroyed their weapons. The next hour brought another twenty men into the corridor, looking for their missing comrades as well as the fugitives they sought.

“Hurry up, Paracell Hext,” he whispered as he stunned another four men in the corridor. There was no point in hiding them, now. It was obvious to the enemy that somebody was holding them off in the lower chamber. They came again and again. He stunned them all. The narrowness of the corridor meant that they could only approach two or three at a time. Holding them off for a time was not impossible.

But the time was not limitless. The Celestial Intervention Agency issue pistol was not designed to be used constantly. Its power pack was supposed to be recharged after sustained use. It was weakening every time he fired it.

“Hext, any time now would be good!” he whispered again. He scaled back to the light stun that would knock a Human out for about fifty minutes. He had every reason to hope that the TARDIS would be there before that time to take him and the rest of the refugees away from there.

Even that was failing fast. He looked at the LED lights that indicated power levels and knew there was very little time left. He reached down and took one of the semi-automatics from a soldier he had stunned. If he absolutely had to – if he had to shoot to kill – he knew he could do it. He had done it before.

He just didn’t want to.

He had his fast failing Celestial Intervention Agency gun in his left hand and the AK47 with the stock under his arm and his right trigger finger clumsily wedged against the safety catch when another soldier entered the corridor. For a frozen moment he debated what to do. He wasn’t sure he had one more stun left in the pistol but even to shoot to wound he would have to put it away and grasp the powerful rifle in both hands.

Then in an eyeblink he made his decision. He dropped the rifle and took careful aim with his pistol set in the weakest level of all – short term memory erasure. The bewildered soldier stared hazily at the weapon in his own hands as Chrístõ shoved the dead pistol in his waistband and stepped closer. He disarmed the soldier and then grabbed him by the shoulder. He pulled him back along the corridor and across the ante-chamber and in through a door that no longer led to the place of refuge beneath the tomb of King Suryavarman II. Instead he came into the console room of Paracell Hext’s TARDIS. The saffron robed monks were taking the materialisation of the time machine around them philosophically. The American archaeologists were demanding to know what was happening to them.

The Khmer Rouge soldier burst into tears and dropped to his knees, begging to be let go.

“Just stay cool,” Chrístõ told him. “You’re only here because I decided to indulge a whim, but I promise you’re going to be all right. When we’re done with everything else, I’ll take you back where I found you. But I want you to see a few things, first.”

He turned to Paracell Hext. He noticed that he had been wounded. Pale orange blood was drying around a hole in his jacket sleeve.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

“I wish I actually knew what ‘ok’ means,” Paracell answered. “The word doesn’t even translate into Gallifreyan when I’m standing right next to the console. If you mean am I recovered from the sniper bullet that grazed me just as I reached the TARDIS then, yes. I’m perfectly all right, ready to set our course.”

“The American Embassy in Thailand, first,” Chrístõ said. “We’ll let the archaeologists go home.”

The archaeologists were bewildered. When the TARDIS materialised in front of the brilliant white edifice of the Embassy of the United States in Bangkok only ten minutes later they were just about coming to terms with the fact that they had been taken there by two aliens in a space ship that was bigger on the inside.

“My friend still has enough power in his alien pistol to use the short term memory eraser on you all,” Chrístõ told them. “It might be the best thing for you. Telling the officials in there about the TARDIS might just get you repatriated to a nice American mental hospital. Then again, if you can’t remember how you got here the same thing might happen. I’ll take your word of honour that you’ll just tell them you hitched a lift across the border and leave out what sort of vehicle it was.”

They gave it. He wished them well for the future and watched them pass through the security gate onto diplomatic ground before the TARDIS dematerialised again.

When they landed again it was on the high summit of the mountains of Malvoria where the great monastery had stood for millennia. Chrístõ brought the Angkor Wat monks to meet their counterparts who lived in quiet contemplation and practiced extreme martial arts for the purpose of balancing their inner turmoil and inner peace. They brought with them the prepared body of Joachim Charr and the frightened and very worried former Khmer Rouge soldier.

This unusual group of visitors watched solemnly as the old Time Lord’s funeral pyre was lit at sundown. The flames lit the ice-covered tops of the mountains as the Malvorian moon rose over the valley. It was a fitting end for such a man. Everyone agreed.

Afterwards, Chrístõ explained to the Angkor Wat monks exactly what he had in mind.

“You can stay here. You will be safe and perfectly at peace within a community whose philosophy is not very much different to your own. The violence that has overwhelmed your country will end one day, but when it does millions of people will be counted as missing, presumed dead. Only a fraction of the bodies will ever be identified. Nobody will know that you escaped that fate thanks to the last actions of a Time Lord of Gallifrey.”

They accepted the offer and were welcomed as brothers by the Malvorian monks.

“You can stay here, too,” Chrístõ said to the Khmer Rouge soldier. “You can know peace and contentment instead of taking part in a genocide that will be remembered with horror for thousands of years. I think… when I saw you in that corridor… when I hesitated before shooting you… I think you hesitated, too. I don’t think you were meant to be a mass murderer. I think a lot of your comrades wouldn’t have chosen to be if they hadn’t been sucked in by the propaganda, but I can’t help them. I’m forbidden to interfere. But you didn’t shoot me and I didn’t shoot you.”

The soldier didn’t even remember being in the corridor. He didn’t remember even thinking about shooting Chrístõ. That was all erased from his memory. But a lot of what he said rang true.

“I will stay here,” he decided. “I don’t want to fight.”

“Good man,” Chrístõ told him. “Go and join the others. They will never hold it against you that you were their enemy. That’s not their way.”

The newest acolyte entered the Malvorian monastery and dedicated his future to peace. Chrístõ considered that a job well done.

“We couldn’t do any more,” Hext told him. “You saved the archaeologists, you saved the monks. You saved ONE of the soldiers. Anything more would have caused the sort of paradox I’m supposed to torture people for committing.”

“Joachim Charr saved them. He was a brave man… a brave Time Lord.”

“We’ll make sure everyone back on Gallifrey knows it,” Hext promised. “I’m not sure everyone CARES about bravery, these days. But we’ll tell them anyway.”

“Yes, we will,” Chrístõ agreed.